Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is associated with an IL-2-deficient state, with regulatory T cells (Tregs) showing diminished immune regulatory capacity. A low dose of IL-2 has shown encouraging clinical benefits in SLE patients; however, its clinical utility is limited because of the requirement of daily injections and the observation of increase in proinflammatory cytokines and in non-Tregs. We recently showed that a fusion protein of mouse IL-2 and mouse IL-2Rα (CD25), joined by a noncleavable linker, was effective in treating diabetes in NOD mice by selectively inducing Treg expansion. In this report, we show that mouse IL-2 (mIL-2)/CD25 at doses up to 0.5 mg/kg twice a week induced a robust Treg expansion without showing signs of increase in the numbers of NK, CD4+Foxp3-, or CD8+ T cells or significant increase in proinflammatory cytokines. In both NZB × NZW and MRL/lpr mice, mIL-2/CD25 at 0.2-0.4 mg/kg twice a week demonstrated efficacy in inducing Treg expansion, CD25 upregulation, and inhibiting lupus nephritis based on the levels of proteinuria, autoantibody titers, and kidney histology scores. mIL-2/CD25 was effective even when treatment was initiated at the time when NZB - NZW mice already showed signs of advanced disease. Furthermore, we show coadministration of prednisolone, which SLE patients commonly take, did not interfere with the ability of mIL-2/CD25 to expand Tregs. The prednisolone and mIL-2/CD25 combination treatment results in improvements in most of the efficacy readouts relative to either monotherapy alone. Taken together, our results support further evaluation of IL-2/CD25 in the clinic for treating immune-mediated diseases such as SLE.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy